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Sep 24, 2008

Rabbanut sans Haredim

I never really understood why Haredim try to get involved in running the Rabbanut, whether it is in the sense of the Chief Rabbinate positions or other positions of leadership within the Rabbinic Council.

I am not talking about haredi people who take jobs with the Rabbanut, such as mashgichim or jobs as rabbis of cities or neighborhoods. That I understand.

What eludes me is why Haredi leadership gets involved. Why does Rav Elyashiv try to influence the election of the Chief Rabbi, for example?

The general Haredi public does not rely on the Rabbanut for pretty much anything, whether it be for kashrus of esrogim, meat, marriages, divorce, conversion, vegetables, shmitta, and even things as mundane as popsicles, etc. And it is not like the Haredi influence in recent years has effected a change in the perception of the general Haredi public towards the Rabbanut, so that too is not a goal.

So why?

Yesterday there were elections for the council of the Rabbanut of Israel. Shas was pushing rabbis it supported for the council. Rav Elyashiv and his guys were pushing rabbis they supported for the council. NRP was pushing rabbis they supported for the council.

Rav Elyashiv and Shas got into a bit of a row about this election. One of the leading rabbis Shas was supporting was Rav Avrohom Yosef, the Chief Rabbi of Holon and son of Rav Ovadia Yosef. Rav Avrohom Yosef is a brilliant person, and he sounds like he is personable and forthcoming (he used to give (maybe he still does) daily halacha talks on the radio I would sometimes listen to).

Rav Elyashiv fiercely opposed Rav A Yosef being elected to the council of the Rabbanut. The reason is because Rav A Yosef, like his father, has supported the use of hetter mechira. Rav Elyashiv is against hetter mechira to an extreme, and considered that alone to be enough of a reason to reject supporting the election of Rav Yosef.

This led to a rift between Shas and Rav Elyashiv/Degel. They could not come to an agreement of mutually supporting each others candidates (for ashkenazy and sefardi positions), because Rav Elyashiv would not support Rav Yosef, and it was all or nothing, so each ran alone. Actually, Shas came to an agreement of joint support with the NRP.

It turns out, that all of Shas' candidates got in, along with all of NRPs candidates. Not a single candidate of Rav Elyashivs made it in.

(I am not going to comment on the candidates themselves, because I do not know most of them. I know Rav Kook by reputation and he is supposed to be a very worthy rav, no matter which party or backer was supporting him, so this is not necessarily about qualifications)

So for the first time in recent years, the Rabbanut is back to a situation where it is being controlled by Rabbonim and a community that use its services and trust in it, and no longer by rabbonim who use it, perhaps cynically, as a method of control.


  1. They get involved presumably because they feel that it's wrong for ANYONE to rely on those heterim.

  2. sounds like good news to me. will this have an impact on the slant of the supreme rabbanut beis din - which has been very much in the public eye this year? Does this body control selection of appointees to the supreme beis din?

  3. Baruch Hashem! It's probably only a temporary respite from the onslaught, but we'll take what we can get.

  4. They get involved because they think it's wrong for ANYONE to rely on HETERIM that would take money out of their pockets.

    Certain individuals who control access to Rav Elyashiv and control his public statements are heavily invested in companies that supply non-heter mechira produce.

    The battle for control of the Rabbanut is a battle to divert more and more business to the various enterprises (geirus, hashgacha, etc) controlled by the Rav Elyashiv insiders.

    Rav Elyashiv is the innocent pawn, behind whom they hide.

  5. You gotta love this quote from the article:
    בחירות גוררות אחריהן כל-כך הרבה פוליטיקה, רכילות ולשון הרע, וכשמדובר ברבנים זה חמור שבעתיים, אז
    אנשים התלבטו אם זה טוב שזה היה בחודש אלול, שמצד אחד זה חודש התשובה והרחמים, וזה לא טוב שזה קורה דווקא בזמן הזה. אבל מצד שני, עוד כמה ימים ראש השנה ויום כיפור, אז יש גם הזדמנות לכפר על הכל

  6. I love his halacha radio segment. I would vote for him in a second

  7. SD - do you really believe any rav is an innocent pawn? I am sorry to say that I no longer believe in any of that drivel we were taught in school.

    sad, but true. (Hashem, please don't strike me down)

  8. I was not referring to any old Rav, when I said he was a pawn. I was referring to Rav Elyashiv.

    Have you ever seen him and seen how he lives?

    He is a 95-year-old tzaddik and masmid, sh'ain c'mo hu, absolutely, totally cut off from the outside world, without guile, with no interest in power or money, and totally dependent on his henchmen (I mean, gabboim) for all his information.

  9. Money and jobs. The rabbanut pays Dayanim and chief Rabbis of a city very well.

  10. that is why I said I understand why individuals take jobs in the rabbanut. But why the Haredi leadership looks to control the rabbanut has always been a bit puzzling...

  11. The rabbanut is just another way to gain political control. It has nothing to do with halacha or religion or the benefit of the tzibur-it's purely a political power play.

    One caveat: Control of the rabbinate also means control of personal status issues- which is important to the charedim on a general clal level. They do care about whether chilonim are marrying, divorcing and converting spouses properly, from a mamzerut point of view. Other than that, just politics as usual.

    I don't think money is that much of an issue. I don't think that many more d'l are eating non-heter mechira because of the rabbanut's stupidity.

  12. B"H

    I noticed, and was disappointed, that Rav S. Kook didn't get back in. He is very adamantly against meeting with sneaky Christians.

    I am very happy that Rav Shmuel Eliyahu got it, someone who knows the difference between halacha and Israeli law.

    Rav A. Yosef getting in just confirms that he's Rav Ovadiah's heir apparent, no hidush here, just that he's getting ready to ascend.

    Personally, I like his brother a lot, Rav Ya'aqov.

  13. Ben-Yehudah - I thought Rav Shlomo Amar was Rav Ovadiah's heir apparent. So Rav A Yosef taking over from Rav Ovadiah would be a chidish to me. This was discussed in one of the Israeli papers a few months ago.


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